To mark the occasion, I am re-publishing a list of highlights for your viewing consideration.
Amongst the highlights are a 2 hour Live variety show The Friday Night Crack Up hosted by Eddie Perfect, a 3 part documentary Changing Minds looking at the inside of Liverpool Hospital’s Mental Health Unit, a sitcom Timothy and a special edition of the Agony series, Agony of the Mind.
Themed programming will take place across ABC, ABC2 and ABC3 while regular shows will also devote episodes to the topic.
ABC Director of Television Richard Finlayson said, “Mental health challenges are huge and touch so many Australian families, yet we still struggle to talk about it openly. Our week of ABC Mental As… programming will challenge stigmas and taboos; promote discussion, support and education; and inspire Australia to donate to mental health research.
“From the unique and ground-breaking documentary series Changing Minds and one-off special Felicity’s Mental Mission; to new comedy and entertainment including Timothy, The Agony of the Mind and Friday Night Crack Up; along with distinctive episodes of Q&A, Good Game, Gardening Australia and many more.”
The week will also be supported by personalities and presenters, with some from other networks, including Deborah Mailman, Jessica Rowe, Rove McManus, Alex Perry, Todd Sampson, Missy Higgins, Shane Jacobsen, Jeremy Fernandez and Emma Alberici.
It will include a fundraising component through donations and an Art Auction.
Professor Patrick McGorry said, “We need a national research effort to match cancer and cardiovascular disease. The funds raised through ABC Mental As… will be invested in mental health research, funding Australia’s next generation of emerging research leaders to seek breakthroughs, progress and cures.”
8:30pm Tuesday 7, Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 October ABC
For the first time in Australian television history, a documentary series has been filmed inside one of the busiest mental health units in the country.
Brave, raw and sometimes funny, the three-part series Changing Minds goes behind the locked doors of Liverpool Hospital’s Mental Health Unit to meet the patients and staff who are challenging the stigma and taboos that exist around mental illness. Patients agreed to be filmed while mentally unwell and then consented formally once they recovered their health. Their stories reveal the realities of 21st century psychiatric care.
Over the series we meet… Patrick, a high flying IT specialist who clung to the bull bar of a speeding truck for 20 minutes during a manic episode; Sandra, the loveable grandmother who loses her grip on reality after the death of her brother; Rebecca, who’s convinced she needs a psychic not a psychiatrist to help her; and Steven, as he prepares to undergo possibly psychiatry’s most misunderstood treatment: electroconvulsive therapy.
Changing Minds follows these patients as they, with the help of the staff, work towards regaining their health. By following Clinical Director Dr Mark Cross and his team, taboos are challenged, stigmas confronted and the message is clear – help is available. Mental illness is just that, an illness, not a defect of character.
9:30pm Wednesday 8 October ABC
Melinda (Denise Scott) and Colin Garrett’s (Peter Rowsthorn) 35-year-old son Timothy (Stephen Curry) has returned to Wollongong. Unfortunately, his homecoming is under less than stellar circumstances, the result of bankruptcy and a mental breakdown in his former life as a corporate high-flyer in Hong Kong.
Apart from permanently sporting an old dressing gown, Timothy doesn’t show many signs of the breakdown that landed him back in Wollongong. Timothy’s therapist, however, insists that he is very fragile.
He drives his mother Melinda up the wall, rearranging her entire household, including the items in the kitchen according to buoyancy. He practices martial arts on the clothes line and only eats freshly killed Silver Carp which has to be procured on the Asian black market.
As much as Melinda would like the therapist to be wrong, she discovers that whenever she tries to gently “nudge” Timothy to change his ways, he is indeed worryingly delicate.
The road to recovery is long. That is, if recovery ever comes at all. And the road is paved with relapses, murdered Silver Carp and grandchildren who may never be able to visit again.
Agony of the Mind
9:30pm Thursday 9 October ABC
Last time our Agony Aunts and Uncles took us through The Agony of Modern Manners – charting our behavior at work, at home, dinner, traveling, online, weddings and funerals. It was a funny, bombastic and controversial examination of human behavior.
Now the team has regrouped and refreshed its play list and is back for a one-off special episode to examine the Agony of the Mind. From maintaining happiness, to dealing with anxiety, addiction and stress, our Aunts and Uncles will be asked to reveal their mental weaknesses as well as their techniques for overcoming them.
This is not a show that deals with crippling disorders. Instead, it looks at how we get out of bed every morning – our tricks for being successful, how to get back up after a fall, and affirmations for staying on track.
The Agony Aunts and Uncles include Jack Charles, Tom and John Elliott, Dawn Fraser, Jess Harris, Dave Hughes, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Andrew Knight, Pat McGorry, Lawrence Mooney, Fiona O’Laughlin, Dave O’Neil, Sam Pang, Tim Ross, Yumi Stynes, Chrissie Swan and Julia Zemiro.
Friday Night Crack Up
7:30pm Friday October 10 ABC
Put on your dancing shoes, frock up and get ready to laugh when you join us for a wonderful evening of entertainment coinciding with World Mental Health Day on October 10. Our two hour live-to-air variety show, Friday Night Crack Up, will bring you singing, dancing, comedy and personalities – from across all the Australian TV networks – doing things you never expected they could, or would!
Hosted by Eddie Perfect, this night of fundraising fun will feature a fabulous line-up of Australia’s biggest personalities, comedians, actors and sportspeople with games, music and big band action.
Broadcast live in front of a studio audience, Friday Night Crack Up is the main event in a week of compelling programming for Mental Health Week as ABC goes Mental As… All the funds raised during the program will go to support mental health research.
At some time in our lives it’s highly likely we’ll be touched by mental illness, either directly or indirectly, so getting together and taking action now is extremely important. Friday Night Crack Up wants to be part of a nationwide conversation about mental health and will encourage viewers to donate to mental health research. Plan a big night in! Be prepared to be surprised and entertained by this one-off TV fundraising event.
Tempest at the Drop In
10:30pm Sunday October 12 ABC
Narrated by Eric Bana, Tempest at the Drop-In follows mentally ill and socially isolated members of the community as they stage a professional production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest alongside professional actors John Bolton, Brian Lipson, Bagriana Popov and Joseph Sherman.
Filmed over 12 months, Tempest at the Drop-In Diaries of a Broken Mind tells the is an intimate and unique insight into the daily lives of Pat, Marlene, Abdul, Matt, Brian, Stewart, Chris, Mark, Mary Grace and Jenene who all live with a mental illness and attend drama classes at the St Kilda Drop-In Centre. We also meet Sharon Kirschner, a young psychologist and drama teacher with big hair and an even bigger heart.
Tempest at the Drop-In follows this unusual cast as they rehearse and finally mount their production. Despite the hardships, the walkouts, nerves, misunderstandings and the tears, there’s an enormous amount of laughter and fulfilment on this roller coaster of a ride.
Tempest at the Drop-In explores the complex and often misunderstood subject of mental illness with honesty, humour and hope.
Diaries of a Broken Mind
8:30pm Sunday October 5 ABC2
Lifting the lid on teenage mental health, Diaries of a Broken Mind tells the first-hand experiences of 25 young people as they navigate the rocky road of growing up with mental health issues.
Intimate and thought provoking, this bold documentary follows 25 young contributors as they use handheld cameras to film themselves over six months, telling their stories in their own words. The result is a collection of unique journeys showing the everyday challenges of relationships, education and social stigma.
Their illnesses are wide-ranging – from multiple personalities to agoraphobia and anorexia – and they take a mindboggling number of pills to tackle them. “These are all the tablets I’m currently taking… there’s quite a lot!” says one. With side effects including cancer and sudden death, many dream of a life without medication.
Felicity’s Mental Mission
8:30pm Monday October 6 ABC2
In Felicity’s Mental Mission multi-award winning comedian Felicity Ward takes up the challenge of breaking down the stigmas around mental health. It’s a subject that Felicity feels well equipped to explore – she lives with anxiety and a few years ago wrote about it in her comedy show Honestly.
Teaming up with The Mental Health Council of Australia, Felicity bravely takes on a mission to get 3,000 promises on their online ‘promise wall’. If her campaign is successful, she promises to face her fears and fly upside down in a stunt plane.
Along the way, we meet some of her comic friends such as Celia Pacquola, Rhys Nicholson and Sammy J & Randy, as well as talking to musician Missy Higgins and Rapper 360 who have both had their own experience of mental illness. Felicity also finds out about, and even participates in, some of the latest research around mental illness.
In Felicity’s Mental Mission we witness how anxiety affects Felicity first hand with the filming taking place in the middle of her hectic national comedy tour and her comedy routine is intercut throughout. Her cheeky observations and interactions take us on an entertaining, candid and thought-provoking journey into the world of mental illness.
My Great Big Adventure
5:20pm Monday 6 October ABC3
Kayne Tremills is back for another exciting series of My Great Big Adventure and this time he’s bringing some friends along. Steph, Takaya and Nancy join the My Great Big Adventure team and their first big challenge is to understand mental health and what it means to young Australians.
My Great Big Adventure drops in on a group of 10 to 14-year-olds discussing mental health, with no grown-ups around. These young Australians share their personal insights into mental health and discuss the big questions: What is mental health? Does it mean you’re crazy? Who can help? What do I do if my friends or family members are suffering? And what can I do if it happens to me? Inspired by their courage and honesty, Kayne sets himself an overarching challenge to break the silence surrounding mental health and get more young Australians talking about it.
With the help of one of Australia’s top musical acts, Kayne decides to organise a teenage Flash Mob at a local high school. He’s convinced that with the right song and the right dance, the event will go viral and send a powerful message that talking about mental health is healthy. But can the My Great Big Adventure team pull it off?
Monday to Friday at 5.00pm ABC3
Throughout ABC Mental As… Studio 3 hosts James, Tim, Grace, Liv and Ivy will confide to the viewers what they do to make themselves feel better. They then carry out their preferred activity with a bunch of new friends.
Monday 6 October at 8.00pm ABC
I Am Jack is the heart-warming story of radio and TV personality Ian ‘Dano’ Rogerson and his wife Nicole, who gave up their home, careers and an exciting lifestyle for the love of their son, Jack. Back in 1999 when Jack was diagnosed with autism, there was little help available, but the Rogersons were determined to do whatever they could to enable their son to lead a mainstream lifestyle and now those efforts are being richly rewarded. Now at 18, Jack is graduating from high school and looking forward to a career in the hospitality industry.
Q & A
Monday 6 October at 9.35pm ABC
Mental health services – like all services – are less accessible to people living in rural and regional Australia but the problems are just as serious: in fact they can be exacerbated by loneliness, economic uncertainty and limited access to all sorts of support and services. This special episode of Q&A will give Australians outside the big cities the chance to put their issues on the national agenda.
Tuesday 7 October at 8.30pm ABC2
Videogames are often a scapegoat when it comes to explaining anti-social behaviour, but there’s increasing evidence to show that games can play a beneficial role in our mental health. ABC2’s Good Game willbe taking a look at the transformative power of videogames as a medium that connects people and helps us develop the potent mental tools we need to tackle our own personal problems in this special episode for ABC Mental As…
The Book Club
Tuesday 7 October at 10.00pm ABC
Jennifer Byrne, Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger plus two special guest panellists discuss new Australian novel, The Wonders by Paddy O’Reilly. This new release promises to challenge our ideas about celebrity, disability and the value of human life. Jennifer brings along a favourite, Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time which is narrated by Christopher John Francis Boone, a young boy whose symptoms and behaviour suggest he has a mild form of autism. However, Haddon has written that “Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s… if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way”.
Thursday 9 October 8.00pm ABC
Friendship. From before we can even speak, we seek the companionship of others. But why – why is this drive so powerful? And how come out of all the people we meet in our lives, we fall in friendship with some and not others? In this big-hearted, personal and often surprising Catalyst special, reporter Dr Jonica Newby dives deep into the complex world of our friendships.
Saturday 11 October 6.30pm ABC
This special episode of Gardening Australia takes a look at gardening as therapy. Jane Edmanson visits a garden project creating social connections and employment opportunities for refugees in Melbourne’s West. Angus Stewart visits a small business where workers are encouraged to spend some time working with plants to help prevent stress in the office. And Tino Carnevale looks at how veggie beds in The Patch, at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, provide a healthy outlet for diverse community groups.
Compass: River to Recovery
Sunday 12 October 6.30pm ABC
Follows an ambitious scheme helping people with mental health issues to build confidence, self-esteem and trust, and turn their lives around. Over two years the students on the “River to Recovery” course built their own boats and rowed them down the River Murray, learning about individual rights, the ability to be assertive, the compassion to care for each other and listen, and the strength to find their own voice. Now the students have become mentors themselves as they introduce a new group of people living with mental health issues to the joys of messing about on the River Murray.
ABC NEWS 24: Mental Health Minutes
ABC News 24 will broadcast a series of Mental Health Minutes throughout ABC Mental As… Dr Norman Swan will give tips on how to stay mentally healthy by dealing with day to day stress using mindfulness, resilience, goal setting and exercise.